Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – When Dominion Energy recently announced to its employees that the Pine Island Club on Lake Murray was being shuttered for the remainder of 2020, company executives explained the reasoning behind this to company employees in a letter. In that letter, Dominion executives said the decision to close was based on the company’s COVID-19 pandemic response. Now, some current or former employees feel as if closing the club will be made permanent and is just another betrayal by SCE&G and its parent company SCANA after selling to Virginia based Dominion in 2019.
SCE&G’s end started when they abandoned the construction of two nuclear units being constructed at the V.C. Summer generating facility in Jenkinsville, SC. The units never came close to completion and not only started a domino effect that brought SCANA and SCE&G down, it also crippled Santee Cooper, the South Carolina state owned utility giant that was a partner in the project. What to do with Santee Cooper is currently a hot topic at the SC State House and could be decided in the coming year.
For decades SCE&G was strong and healthy. As part of the benefits of working for the company, it maintained three clubs that were available for employees to rest, relax, hold social gatherings, and more. One was Pine Island, and the others were the Sand Dunes on the coast and Misty Lake in Aiken County. Many club members held their family’s most significant life events at these clubs. Events like weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, and anniversaries were often celebrated at the clubs. For a small dues subtracted from their checks, employees enjoyed their own little piece of paradise as a diversion from their work. Many say when they first began with SCE&G and held jobs at the bottom end of the company’s pay scale, the clubs made them feel like they were hobnobbing with the country club set.
For many in both Lexington and Richland Counties, the Pine Island Club is a part of the fabric of the area as well. It was often leased for events like high school reunions, social events, business meetings, or seminars. It’s as recognizable a landmark from the waters of Lake Murray as the dam and the five towers that stand nearby.
When Dominion Energy’s management closed Pine Island this spring as a part of their pandemic response, some thought it would be back open soon. However, in a letter sent to employees, management said an assessment had already been underway to help them decide what to do with the clubs. Just the land Pine Island sits on is worth millions and would be an unbelievable development opportunity.
Even if it makes business sense to close and sell Pine Island, some employees who transferred to Dominion in the sale from SCE&G, and retirees who worked for the company their entire lives, say closing the club is a betrayal of a commitment made by SCE&G. One contacted The Lexington Ledger and said, “SCE&G had promised employees lifelong access to the island even after retirement as an amenity.” He said if the club was permanently closed, it would be a promise broken.
It would be reasonable to ask, what makes members think the closing is permanent? The employee we spoke with said in the letter he received about the club’s closing; any members’ dues paid after May 1, 2020 will be refunded. Additionally, any existing reservations are cancelled, and their reservation fees will be refunded. No request for future reservation will be accepted. If a wedding was scheduled from now through the end of 2020, those reservations are being cancelled. The employee did say company executives will pay those who reserved a time for weddings an additional $500 as an inconvenience fee.
Club members who enjoyed boating were told amenities surrounding that activity were coming to a stop. They informed members who stored, docked, or launched their boats there that they would need to make other arrangements quickly. Any member who has a boat, or any personal property for that matter, at Pine Island has until the end of June to retrieve them. A retiree who worked at SCE&G for more than three decades told The Ledger, “None of this seems temporary to me. It’s sad because it was more than a perk, it was a part of the history of the company. It represents a bygone era when working for a business like that wasn’t just a job, it was like becoming a member of the company family. Dominion has not released a decision, but it seems a lot like one has already been made!”
Now, a group of current and retired employees has organized an online petition to try and save Pine Island Club. As of Memorial Day, 2020, it had more than 1,400 signatures. Although this effort is valiant, it probably has no basis in law and may have no effect on Dominion Energy’s decision regarding the clubs. If any written guarantee was given when new hires were made over the life of SCE&G, no one can identify any document that contains this.Like many other memories of a different, more leisurely time in America, Pine Island and the company’s other employee clubs seemed doomed to be just a distant memory.
The website where you can sign the petition can be found by following this link. The web address is: https://www.change.org/p/dominion-energy-save-pine-island-club